Have you ever been a part of a conversation like this one that has taken place in my house more than once:
14-year-old: “Mom, do we have any tissues I can bring to school?”
Me: “Why, are you getting a cold?”
14-year-old: “No, if I bring a box of tissues today I will get 10 points added to my test so I can get two wrong and still get a hundred.”
Cue that emoji with the really big eyes, exhibiting shock and horror. Don’t get me wrong…I believe in contributing to the community as a whole by sharing boxes of tissues and bottles of hand soap but that is not what makes this conversation so alarming. My own children are not the only ones who have alerted me to this type of assessment scoring…Students often ask to borrow a pencil so they don’t lose points on a quiz or run in to our classroom, breathless and begging to print out an essay so they aren’t docked a letter grade for turning it in late. The question remains: How does this type of scoring system tell us about a student’s progress toward learning standards??
Standards-based grading is not new and, at this point, we can’t deny that it is the most authentic way to determine student learning. (You can read lots more about this by viewing my Mastery-Based Learning Wakelet of resources on the topic.) So how can we use Google Classroom to effectively help students work towards mastery of standards? I have come up with a simple way to do that, while having a significant effect on students’ understanding of their own learning.
As you’ve probably heard, Google recently released a beta version of a gradebook for Google Classroom, something that many school districts and teachers have been hoping to see for a while. The beta version is admittedly simple…it is essentially a spreadsheet that draws data from the Classroom’s graded assignments and puts them into weighted assignment categories as specified by the teacher. (If you have not yet signed up for the beta and would like to, complete this form.) Every time Google releases a new product or product update, teachers inevitably say, Ok, it can do this but can it do THIS?? By nature, teachers are innovators and we want to know how tools and resources can most benefit our students. My first view of Google’s simple grade book design led me straight to thinking about how I could use it to support mastery-based learning and grading!
My system is built around 5 simple steps:
1. Create a Google Classroom specifically for your grade-level content standards and add the appropriate students.
2. Create a topic for each content standard “bucket” (i.e. Strand, Content Focus, etc.)
3. Create an assignment for each indicator under the appropriate topic. Choose a “grading scale” for each assignment. You may choose to grade each indicator on a “MET/NOT MET” scale, making each worth 1 point or create a scale that allows for students to “partially meet” a standard or be “approaching” mastery.
4. Have students attach one or more pieces of evidence that they believe demonstrate their understanding of each standard. (For younger students, you can do this with them as part of your student/teacher conference.)
5. Hold a progress conference with each student at an agreed upon time, using the Google Classroom and grade book as the basis for your discussion.
This system has tons of benefits for students and teachers!
- It focuses assessment on progress toward the standards rather than arbitrary points unrelated to learning! This gives students and teachers a clear evidence of what students know and are able to do.
- It encourages students to interact directly with learning standards and think deeply about their own learning! By attaching evidence of their progress toward each learning standard, students will gain a solid understanding of what the standard is asking and more insight into their own thinking about what they know and what they still need to learn to master the topic.
- It creates a portfolio of learning evidence for each student! Students and teachers can proudly view a body of work that demonstrates progress and growth.
- It creates a natural structure for student/teacher conferences! Focusing on the standards ensures that conferences stay on-track and related to learning goals.
If you plan to try (or are already) using Google Classroom for standards-based grading, I would love to hear your process and thoughts on how it impacts your students and classroom!